How did the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion come about?
Friday 01 October 2010
Back in 2004, the main driving force behind our initiative was our determination to work together on a territory whose constituent parts share a common history - let me refer back to Jacques d’Aragon here - and which also have a future to share. Globalisation is there to remind us that borders cannot be addressed the way they used to be. The new modes of transport have considerably reduced distances and the time spent travelling. Today, our goal is to broaden the horizon of our citizens, enterprises and researchers…..
The construction of the EU takes more than just states. EU integration will only last if it is consolidated by regional initiatives and if territories of coherent projects emerge across borders.
In addition, there is a certain advantage in combining our potentials in order to secure our competitive edge over other countries and regions but also to offer more solidarity for our territories.
The Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion is one of the first communities of regions in Europe to have adopted a legal instrument: the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). Why have you initiated such a process?
We wanted to strengthen and institutionalise our cooperation - and this legal instrument was the solution. The EGTC should allow us to present common projects in the framework of European programmes. It is advantageous because there is only one project leader rather than four; we have a dedicated team; and thus project management becomes much easier.
The idea stems from the same logic as that behind the creation of this legal instrument by the European Commission, ie to create a tool that makes territorial cooperation easier.
The EGTC does not ‘replace’ the four regions. Instead, it provides them with expertise, serves as a tool for coordination and even submits cooperation projects on their behalf….
The framework for integrated cooperation that is expected to emerge will serve as a guarantee for the success of European integration because it will introduce a sense of proximity, which citizens so badly need in these times of insecurity.
What are the main goals of your programme?
The first priority was for the EGTC to become operational, which was not an easy task as we did not have similar examples to rely on. We succeeded eventually.
We focused our work on the establishment of the Eurocampus aiming at facilitating exchanges between universities, student mobility and cooperation between researchers… For example, we created a ‘mobility cheque’ that grants aid to students when they complete their courses in one of the four regions. I dream of that day when our students will move freely from one university to another, from Montpellier to Zaragoza, from Barcelona to Toulouse or Palma… just like they did in the thirteenth century.
We are also drafting a Euroregion-wide plan in order to pool some of our actions to address climate change. These two projects are at the heart of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy and are demonstrating the coherence of our actions with the EU’s major strategies.
In the field of culture, the four regions have decided to assign to the EGTC the launch and management of a call for proposals for common initiatives on both sides of the border.
These are only a few examples, but I could also mention the establishment of a network of business incubators or the will to engage more closely with the secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean.
In the context of the debate over the future of regional policy, what role do you think the Euroregions should play?
Firstly, I would like to reaffirm that European integration is not benefitting the regions in the same way. It is essential to help the less advanced regions while allowing the others to act as locomotives. Cohesion policy should, although with different intensities, address all regions. And I call on the states not to be nervous about their commitments: they will be seen as a reflection of their desire to build a strong and united Europe.
The Euroregions - and especially those composed of regions and structured around an EGTC - should become privileged instruments of territorial cooperation. They represent projects with a territorial scope and with integrated cooperation, whose dynamics can give our citizens a sense of proximity to Europe, which is so lacking today.
The incentive effect of the European programmes to bring about these kinds of initiatives and help them to develop is important. Therefore, I hope that the Commission’s future programming proposals will identify the Euroregions as privileged instruments of cohesion policy.
Imagine a Euroregion with a dedicated programme to strengthen cooperation in specific projects... I am sure that this would represent another step towards territorial cooperation. For this end, we are ready to sign a contract between our Euroregion and the EU based on a shared strategy and clearly defined goals.
We want our initiatives to be specific, visible and useful to all!
(*) Georges Frêche is president of the Languedoc-Roussillon Region and president of the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion. The Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion comprises the French regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées and the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands